Mini-mes and nepo-babies are all over catwalks and Instagram

February 26, 2023 12:28 pm

The international fashion weeks are in full swing and new trends are coming thick and fast. Ruffles, tartan, skirts, roll necks – next autumn is set to be a style extravaganza. However, when it comes to accessories, forget handbags and shoes; the latest must-have is a kid.

During London Fashion Week babies abounded on the catwalk. At Susan Fang, ruffled dresses were scaled down to teensy proportions and paraded on mini-mes who walked hand-in-hand with full-sized models. Zeitgeisty designer, Mowalola, included a seven-month-old in her line-up, which provoked a chorus of coos from the smitten audience – as well as a fair few raised eyebrows. Wearing a bespoke printed T-shirt and bemused expression, said baby was accompanied by their artist-cum-model father who cradled the infant like a new-season tote.

Meanwhile at the Proenza Schouler show in New York, it wasn’t Sienna Miller’s micro shorts that had editors’ tongues wagging (although they were of note with it being in the minus figures outside) but rather her 10-year-old daughter, Marlowe Sturridge, who was nestled next to her on the front row, clutching a Dior saddle bag and chatting to Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour. Some kids get all the luck.

It’s not just fashion month that’s gone baby mad, though. Early this month British Vogue released its hotly anticipated March issue featuring Rihanna on the cover, who appeared alongside her nine-month-old. While the pop megastar wore a selection of gothic-glam gowns from the likes of Valentino and Burberry, her son made his magazine debut in a white blanket and nappy, artfully positioned by his personal stylist Matthew Henson. Yes, that’s right, the baby had a dresser.

The fashion industry has a history of being fascinated with chic offspring. The number of column inches dedicated to Suri Cruise’s pre-teen outfits over the years must exceed the millions. See also Harper Beckham – the well-dressed daughter of Posh and Becks – and the young Royals (I’ve been responsible for a few of those myself).

Earlier this year, Apple Martin – the impossibly beautiful product of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s 13-year marriage – attended the Chanel Couture show in Paris, dressed head-to-toe in the designer label. Overnight, a style sensation was born.

In the current nepo-baby era it seems inevitable that the wealthy and fabulous’ sprogs are flaunted in the spotlight, designer romper in tow. And while there are certainly cheaper accessories to have (a year of my toddler’s childcare costs would buy me a Birkin) there’s something undeniably cute about an immaculate miniature human wearing immaculate miniature clothes.

In fact, there’s a whole segment of the fashion industry cashing out on how cute it is. The global childrenswear market is worth over $200bn and the biggest luxury brands from Gucci to Dolce and Gabbana sell their high-end pieces in tiny form. (It’s just a shame the same creative enthusiasm isn’t afforded to the maternity wear market, which is mainly still a shambles of frumpy sack dresses and uninspiring elasticated things.)

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The trickle down effect is massive. My social feeds are full of influencers and their kids. I’ve posted images of my own son in particularly adorable outfits, before they get covered in yogurt. Would I hire a personal stylist to dress him à la Rihanna? No. But if I had the financial means I might be tempted to follow her lead and buy him custom-made jeans (Ri-Ri’s son’s come with on-trend ripped holes). Imagine the kudos on the nursery run.

However, mixing kids with fashion can go very wrong. At the tail end of last year, Balenciaga got into scalding hot water after releasing campaign imagery featuring children holding bondage-clad teddy bears. Although likely a wildly ill-judged publicity stunt rather than anything more sinister (fashion brands are increasingly having to resort to extreme measures to make themselves heard) it does highlight one of the icky sides of turning kids into fashion plates.

The idea of child as stars has long been controversial, but while they used to be in the minority, today’s culture for oversharing means millions of kid have a taste of fashion fame – be that a glossy magazine cover or styled social media post – before they can say “no pictures, please”. So, where do you draw the line?

With my second child on the way – a girl – I won’t pretend I’m not already thinking about the matching mummy-daughter outfit opportunities. No doubt a few will make it onto my Instagram feed, but the closest we’ll get to the catwalk is a strut to the playground and back.

Frankie Graddon is a freelance fashion journalist

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